Anya Hindmarch, The Fashion Sustainability Pioneer

Written by The Heat Team

09 Nov 2020

Heralded as ‘The Queen of Handbags’ Anya Hindmarch is one of Britain’s most esteemed fashion designers who is renowned for her innovative It-bags, but above all, the brand has been pioneering sustainability for well over a decade.

Back before the streetwear explosion in the 2010s, prior to the common practice of long queues and complex resell systems, Hindmarch launched her famous ‘I Am Not A Plastic Bag’ tote which caused a global frenzy; 80,000 people lined outside Sainsbury stores and a stampede went amok in Taiwan in hopes of securing the £5 canvas handbag. Created in response to the growing environmental challenge of plastic bags, it aimed to inspire people to change their everyday habits. Released in a limited quantity of 20,000 pieces, the bag promptly sold out and appeared on resell platforms for upwards of £300.

In the two years that followed the launch of the ‘I Am Not A Plastic Bag’ tote, the British Retail Consortium implement changes that resulted in a 48% reduction in the number of carrier bags given away per year, and Sainsbury’s bag use decreased by 58%, saving 13,200 tonnes of plastic. Not only did the campaign help significantly diminish single-use plastics, it also marked a monumental shift which displayed how fashion can be used as a tool to promote change.

Thirteen years later, the brand’s familiar slogan has changed. As the idea of upcycling waste and creating new products out of old grows increasingly popular, Anya Hindmarch released their most famous bag’s counterpart, ‘I Am A Plastic Bag.’ Each bag is crafted from 32 recycled 500ml PET bottles, with a sustainable-leather trim and handles which assures traceability and no deforestation. Hindmarch spent two years developing a high enough quality rPET plastic that resembled the luxurious feel of cotton canvas and a recycled-windscreen laminate that didn’t crack or smudge the ink. The carbon-neutral bag engages with the growing conversation around plastics and landfills, and emphasises the importance for circularity and closed-loop manufacturing.

To celebrate the launch of ‘I Am A Plastic Bag’, Hindmarch closed her shops and filled display windows with 90,000 plastic bottles (the amount consumed worldwide in six seconds) salvaged from a First Mile recycling plant. The campaign intended to highlight the bleak reality, which hopefully encourages change—which we don’t doubt it will, if the previous success of her bags are anything to go by.  

Anya Hindmarch, The Fashion Sustainability Pioneer

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